The Staked Furniture Toolkit

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If you are interested in some of the staked furniture I’ve been building, such as this three-legged backstool, or in making a Roorkee chair, here are the joinery tools I use.

I make no apologies for these tools. I need stuff that is durable, not only because I use it all the time but so do my students. So it has to be monkey-proof. Also, you’ll notice that I use reaming equipment with a 12° included angle. The world of chairmakers is split on what angle is best. I have found both work fine. So that’s my answer to the question: “What do you think about 6°?”

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Wood Owl Auger Bits
About two years ago I switched to Wood Owl Ultra Smooth Augers after working for years with vintage augers. These Japanese-made bits are the best I’ve ever found. They cut fast and clean, and they clear chips with ease. Plus you can get them sized by 16ths. Yes, they are technically metric. No, it doesn’t technically matter.

I use the 5/8” Wood Owl in a brace to bore the initial hole for the mortise. It’s $15.95 from Traditional Woodworker.

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Large Veritas Standard Tapered Reamer
This Canadian-made reamer works incredibly well in a brace, corded drill or drill press. That’s why I prefer it to Veritas’s professional reamer, which can be used only in a brace. I’ll get about a dozen chairs out of an edge before I need to stone the edge, which I do with a diamond paddle.

My only gripe about the tool is it doesn’t have to be this long – I plan to grind off the first 3/8” of the reamer for my work.

I usually drive this reamer with a heavy-duty corded drill. My second choice is using it in a brace.

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Vesper Sliding Bevel
I have an incurable case of Chris Vesper Fever. He is one of the best two or three living toolmakers I’ve ever met. His stuff has the precision of Karl Holtey – and I can afford it on my salary. I use the small one for chairmaking and staked furniture because I can sneak it right up next to the auger bit or reamer. The blade of a large bevel can get in the way during these operations.

Warning: Once you buy one of his tools, you will likely buy more.

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Veritas 5/8” Tapered Tenon Cutter
This is the matching tenon cutter to the reamer above. It works like a giant pencil sharpener. Simply shave (or turn) your tenon near to its finished size. Then take it for a spin in the tenon cutter and you will have a tenon that perfectly matches the tapered mortise.

The blade is easy to remove and sharpen – it’s about the size of a spokeshave blade.

These tools – or their equivalent – will get you started making almost anything with a tapered, back-wedged joint. As Master Kenobi said: “You’ve just taken the first steps into a larger world.”

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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35 Responses to The Staked Furniture Toolkit

  1. Kinderhook88 says:

    Really appreciate what you do, and what you share. I’m dying to get my hands on Chairmaker’s Notebook. Thinking about trying my hand at something staked this year.

  2. Chris I note that Wood Owl state their bits are for use in a power drill (rather than monkey powered brace). Have you found any problems driving them with a brace?

  3. sablebadger says:

    Which one of the reamers (Sm, Lrg) is best to start with?

    Thanks for putting this starter kit list together. I’m not much interested in making super fancy chairs, but this sort of “furniture of necessity” seems like a lot of fun to build, and a good starting point for moving into furniture making.

  4. The 5/8″ Tenon Cutter has just been restocked after being out since December, so if you are thinking of getting one, don’t wait, as they will likely sell out again thanks to the “Schwarz effect”.

  5. I drool over the Vesper’s every time I see one. One day my precious….one day.

  6. justin says:

    That is one sexy sliding bevel.

  7. richmondp says:

    I see that the Wood Owls are induction hardened. Do you have any trouble re-sharpening these?

  8. wadeholloway says:

    Thanks for the tool starter list. Now I just need the plans for the Welsh Chair and the saw bench. 🙂

  9. dnramirez says:

    Wow, you must have read my mine! Now all I need are the plans for the ‘Staked Sawbenches’. Thanks!!

  10. Chris,

    Do you see any problems using a 1/2″ tapered tenon cutter instead of the 5/8″? I already have the 1/2 cutter that I’ve been using on Roorkees.

    Thanks!

  11. This is great, thanks for that. After reading Campaign Furniture and now into Chairmaker’s Notebook I’m eager to get into making some chairs.

  12. richardmertens says:

    I had the same question. I have a 9/16 tapered tenon cutter and wondered if it was too small.

  13. John Sanford says:

    “Warning: Once you buy one of his tools, you will likely buy more.”

    Thank God he doesn’t have a really extensive line! One (or more) of his bevel gauges is pretty high up on my “Want List” for Handworks 2015. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it.

  14. I have been buying tools over the past several years based on your recommendations in “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” and this blog. I have not yet been disappointed in any of them. I have all the tools you recommend in this post, except my Vesper sliding bevel, purchased within the past year, is a 7 inch brass one. I’m afraid I’m going to have to wait another year before I can afford to buy another Vesper. They certainly are worth the money, though.
    I drilled all the holes in my Knock-Down Nicholson workbench with a Wood Owl bit in a battery powered drill. It cut through the 3 inch thick top like a warm knife through butter, and I didn’t even have to change the drill’s battery!

  15. Can you get a chuck attachment for a vintage brace to accept new bits? Thanks for all that you do.

  16. jonathanszczepanski says:

    Roy Underhill: I have something here for you. Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough, but your uncle wouldn’t allow it. He feared you might follow old Underhill on some damn fool idealistic crusade like your father did.

    Young Schwarz: What is it?

    Roy Underhill : Your father’s brace. This is the tool of a Woodwright. Not as clumsy or random as a cordless drill; an elegant tool for a more civilized age.

    May The Schwarz be with you.

  17. abtuser says:

    (Sorry in advance for kibitzing, but I think I may throw away all my hand tools for this 3d printer:

    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1853707494/pancakebot-the-worlds-first-pancake-printer )

  18. bsrlee says:

    12 degrees is very traditional – it was the angle used on the ends of the Hedeby harbour ‘Viking Sea Chest’ which dates from around the 1000AD mark. Of course that was also an inslope of 2 inches over the height of the chest, so it may also be coincidence.

  19. Chris, what’s your take on Peter Galbert’s reamer? I know you need bomb and monkey proof stuff for teaching, but for a one person shop does it make sense, or will I tire of reaming by hand?

    • I have Elia’s, which is similar. Works fine.

      • petergalbert says:

        I hope it’s not improper for me to comment on this. I don’t think so because I do not now and never have taken money for the reamers that Tim Manney makes. I helped develop them and lent a hand marketing because I saw a need for them. The precise machining of the body and blade allow for thin cuts along the entire length of the taper and the machined slot and heavy blade don’t jam with shavings. I purchased eight of them from Tim which I use in my classes and they have proven to be exceptional. I have seen a great improvement in students accuracy and experience since I’ve started using them. I do prefer the 6 degree taper so I can’t comment on Chris’ recommendations, but I’m sure they are fine.

  20. Hi Chris,

    When you stone the edge of your reamer, do you follow the instructions provided by Lee Valley and only hone the two “inside” edges?

    I only ask because you don’t seem like one to follow directions…

  21. Brian Clites says:

    Thanks for putting together this list in advance of the book. It will give me somethign to ask the honey for come anniversary time, as well as some items to scout at flea markets.

  22. Jennie here a bit late
    I missed this Blog
    Make your own 6 degree wooden body saw steel tapered reamer.
    http://www.greenwoodworking.com
    This was Richard Starr’s first iteration
    We stumbled on the included because we used a saw blade we had.
    I have used Starr’s Beta Test #1 for years.
    I now leave saw teeth on one edge.
    It makes the way for , and gets cleaned up by, the scraping edge.
    Hard to believe? Try it.
    Carl Swensson has actually tested withdrawal strength of a number of tapers.
    A 6 degree included angle is best
    Curtis Buchanan and Dave Sawyer use it.
    Elia Bizzarri and Tim Manney use it and sell excellent and more sophisticated models
    The wooden body 6 degree saw steel tapered reamer is dramatically simple
    and simply more effective
    The 360 degree conical surface is easy to orient and control
    It is light weight
    You can make any diameter and length you desire
    I have no financial interest,
    just grateful and devoted

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